Sunday, August 24, 2008

Vaccinations - no win situation

Childhood vaccinations - I have avoided blogging about this topic, but it is a hard one to avoid. I am constantly aware of the controversy surrounding childhood vaccinations and the possible links to autism. It's a tough issue because, as a parent, we do not want to make any decisions that might lead to our child(ren) suffering.
Let's start with the facts: 1) The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children receive roughly twenty immunizations by their first birthday, 2) There is no known cause of autism, 3) The rate of autism in children is on the rise (roughly 1 in 150 children have an autism spectrum disorder - that ratio is higher in boys), and 4) According to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, measles cases in the U.S. are at the highest level in more than a decade, with nearly half of those involving children whose parents rejected vaccination.
This is such a perplexing issue because instead of concrete facts, there is a lot of "speculation" and "recommendation." Sure, we know that immunizations protect our children from deadly diseases, but are we causing them harm by protecting them? Unfortunately, we do not know for sure. It is a big deal when the AAP recommends that children are vaccinated, but as a mother, it is so difficult to trust that recommendation 100% knowing that 1) autism is on the rise, 2) we don't know what causes autism, and 3) there are parents and researchers who swear up-and-down that vaccinations are linked to autism.
As for my family, we found a common ground. Beginning at our son's two month appointment, we only allowed him two immunizations at a time. We spread out his shots over the course of two weeks (most children receive 4-5 immunizations at their 2-month appointment). This schedule allowed us to monitor his reaction (if any) to each vaccine. We also had a hard time understanding how our little 8-lb. baby could handle FIVE immunizations at one time. Giving them to him over a couple of weeks gave us some peace of mind.
But that was our decision, and each parent is different. We all have our intuition and our instincts, and I believe that we should follow those God-given instincts. I am fortunate; my son has handled the vaccines well. We continue to only allow him two shots at a time - that is what works for us. I empathize with all you parents who struggle with this issue. It is a no win situation - the cost of protecting our children just might be the exact thing that harms them. Hopefully someday we will know for sure.


Alyssa said...

This is so interesting AKH. I just went to a child mental health training and we discussed this at length. There was a huge debate in our group over vaccinations. I don't have much knowlege on the issue so I kept quiet. Also people in my social work network spend a lot of time debating alternative medicines for children, such as holistic healing. I am sure my sister would have a different opinion!

Laurie said...

As a pediatric pharmacist, I support vaccinations! I will vaccinate my children. There are new vaccines that come on the market and I would be more hesitant to vaccinate against nuisance diseases (chicken pox), but I have seen innocent children die from childhood diseases that have virtually been eradicated by vaccination. I do not know what causes autism, but preventing deadly diseases is worth it to me. I also feel manufacturers have come a long way in reducing risks. Everything we expose ourselves and children to is a risk and I feel the benefits outweigh the risk in vaccination.

I am actually contemplating an additional vaccine for our little one to protect against additional strep bacteria that is so prevalent and kills so many every year specifically in our geographical area including my father-in-law.

Congrats on making a powerful and protective decision to vaccinate. You need to because too many parents aren't right now.